By Pavel Du Plessis, HR Master Data & Payroll Specialist at AB InBev
I can't speak about my everyday life without mentioning my past. Because this is what makes up who I am. I've worked at AB InBev since October 2020 and am currently in the People Business Services (PBS) team, taking care of master data and payroll for Germany. My journey into this role is not quite what you might expect, having had a career as a professional dancer before making the switch to a career with ABInBev. Some may see this as two drastically different paths, but both are about building connections and bringing people together. And like ballet, AB InBev also believe that you get out what you put in. Through both careers, I have been encouraged to strive to be the best, pursuing my dream. And just as I once brought joy to my audiences through my performances, my role at AB InBev is also a commitment to improving lives for those across our community.
As part of my role most of my days - apart from payroll days at the end of the month – tend to look quite similar. I start my morning by checking new emails and trying to respond to them. After that I work with incoming tickets, usually, these are about entering sick days, home office hours and holidays into the system. Throughout the day I will also answer ad hoc phone calls from our employees from Germany, trying to help them as much as I can. If payroll is approaching, my team will be running a lot of reports, ensuring this goes smoothly. Our team has nine people, most of us are Czech, and we also have colleagues from Congo, Kazakhstan, Romania and Ukraine. On top of this as soon as you move around our PBS floor, you meet people from many other nationalities.
I was born in Brno in the Czech Republic, and I studied conservatory there as well. After my studies, the dancer, Pavel Smok took me in as a part of the Prague Chamber Ballet, and I have been in Prague ever since. I have fallen in love with the city – with its many trees and beautiful parks. Plus, you cannot speak of Prague without mentioning coffee shops. I just cannot imagine my day without espresso, and in Prague, we are spoilt for choice with a café to suit every mood.
My mum is still back in Brno, but Prague has allowed me the freedom to work, doing what I love. I’m also a huge culture lover – which makes Prague the place to be for me. There are always interesting people coming and going. Prague is very cosmopolitan – walking the streets you will hear Czech but alongside a variety of other languages. Foreigners are invaluable, bringing in a new perspective. Many of my friends are from places all over the world, for which I am grateful. But perhaps most importantly, Prague allowed me to live my dream as a professional dancer, and for that, I am obliged to this city forever.
Thinking about it, I never knew I would end up in an office job. Since my childhood, I loved to dance, so the dance conservatory was a clear next step. Even though the eight years I spent studying were really hard both physically and mentally, they meant I could follow my dream. During my dance career, I fulfilled all – perhaps even more than all – of my dreams. I was a demi-soloist at the National Theater in Prague, danced in all the major ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle, Nutcracker, Raymonda. On top of this, I also learnt beautiful choreographies from Jiri Kylian. But at the age of 32, I had to decide where to go next and I choose to switch my career completely.
I could probably have tried to audition to other cities in the Czech Republic, but I decided didn't want to. And for auditions abroad, I was already too old. I had also just entered into a fresh relationship, so leaving did not feel like the right move.
It was the last week of May 2009, when I did my last performance of Romeo and Juliette at the National theater. Then, the following Monday I sat behind my desk at ExxonMobil. Many people asked me how I could do that, such a drastic change. But it was easy, and I have no regrets. Though, if I am born again, I am sure I will be a dancer.
My years dancing were the best of my life. I was fully supported by my mum and her parents, whom I have so much love for. Although they are no longer with us, after passing away in 2010, I miss them every day and will always cherish those memories.
However, I have no wish to do choreography or teacher – I don’t have the patience! So, I’ve used my passion for languages and learning new things to start a new chapter. ExxonMobil was the best place for me to do that. I met great colleagues and focused on learning new things, looking ahead, not back; never thinking "what if".
And now at AB InBev, I have found in some ways something very similar to what I had at the theatre. Knowledgeable teachers, and clear expectations. As a Master Data and Payroll specialist, I need to be precise, and in the same moment fast. I want to make sure that our colleagues in Germany receive the correct salary, without any mistakes. Also, here at AB InBev, I’m able to be a part of many projects and initiatives, something that I find incredibly important. Alongside my dear colleagues Eline and Romana, we were able to organize for transgender ambassador Lenka Kralova to speak at our office, talking about her life, which was a very proud moment for me.
Plus, I’ve realized I need to take a moment for myself every day, I call this “my time”. As a coffee lover, I spend this at a café after work – letting go of stress and taking the time to have a clear head. And now, I couldn’t imagine a life without the gym, moving and meeting new people. I’ve found my happiness, surrounded by people, learning something new each day and trying to always be a little better.
At AB InBev our greatest strength is our people, and we support every individual to excel. To hear more from our colleagues, click here.